by Brenna Lakeson
At Central OAC, it’s important for us to be involved in the issue of homelessness in three different ways. We provide direct services such as ID, medical referrals, clothing and food referrals, and birth certificates that help meet practical needs. We have the Main Frame Job Readiness Program that works with guests who are ready to take the next steps to get back on their feet. Lastly, we advocate in systems of government to improve policies and laws for the benefit of the people we serve.
“Advocacy” can often be a scary word for those of us who don’t know exactly how to do it or what it means. So, this post serves to break down some of the mystery to help you be a better advocate in your community! The following are three easy and important ways for you to advocate for policies that are important to you.
Call your representatives! To find out who your representatives are, there are several online resources. For your local rep’s in the Georgia House or Senate (or any other state!), check here. For your state rep’s in DC, look here. Once you know who represents you, you can easily find their contact information online. Most of them have either interns or answering machines set up to take your calls. So, keep it short and simple. A great sample message is as follows:
“Hi, my name is ______, I’m a constituent from (city), (zip code). I am opposed to _____ OR I support _______, and I encourage the Senator/Representative to please oppose OR support (legislation/policy). Thanks for your hard work answering the phones!”
It’s most effective to call only your own representatives. This also helps you build a relationship with them (especially your local rep’s). Lastly, try to keep your calls focused on one issue at a time. You might have a lot you want to address with your representative, but you’ll get your point across better if you focus on issues individually instead of leaving a message with your opinions on all issues at once.
Track important legislation. If you’re passionate about a particular issue, say healthcare or poverty, you can track legislation through the House and Senate to find out what decisions are being made. This website is a great place to get started. This site is also very helpful, and you may recognize it from tip #1! – it helps you find your rep’s and gives a breakdown of legislation for you! Bills in the Georgia Legislature are given reference numbers, i.e. SB210 or HB115. “SB” stands for Senate Bill, and “HB” stands for House Bill, indicative of whether a House Representative or a Senator is sponsoring the bill. These numbers make it easier to track the legislation. They also make it easier for you to tell your representatives about specific legislation that your support or oppose.
Meet with representatives! The best way to get your message across is in person. So, while setting up a meeting with your representative might seem scary, it can be highly important. It’s hard to ignore the opinions of someone sitting right in front of you! Especially if you have already been calling your rep’s about specific legislation, your name might be familiar to them, giving you a higher chance of getting a face to face meeting. It can be difficult to get on their calendar, so don’t give up! Keep contacting their office until you’re able to set something up.
You can also try to find advocacy organizations that might be planning to meet with representatives and see if you can join them. Although this year’s legislative session is nearly over, attending the advocacy day for an organization you care about can be a great way to briefly meet with a representative. Throughout the month of February, many different organizations throughout Georgia have scheduled days that they come to the Capitol and speak with their legislators. So, if you’re not quite ready for a one-on-one, join us next year for our day at the Capitol for a beginner’s course!
For more about advocacy and the work we do at COAC, visit https://centraloac.org/programs/advocacy.